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Championship Game Bound; Raiders Knock Off Defending Champs In Classic

Sioux City, Iowa — Epic…amazing…dramatic…there are no words to fully describe a game that will go down as one of the all-time greats in the history of the Red Raider football program. Tyson Kooima connected with Michael Storey for a game-winning touchdown with 16 seconds left to play to give No.6 Northwestern a 44-41 road win over No.1 Morningside in the NAIA FCS semifinals in front of thousands of fans at Olsen Stadium in Sioux City.

Number 6 Northwestern claimed the 44-41 win via a 23 yard pass from Tyson Kooima to Michael Storey with 16-seconds left in the game.

Cade Moser broke a school record with 303 yards receiving for the Red Raiders, and Kooima threw for 490 yards and three scores in the contest. Eli Stader opened up the scoring for Northwestern with a 20-yard field goal and set the single season record for field goals made with 14.

With the win over Morningside, the Raiders advance to the Championship game where they’ll face Lindsey Wilson on Monday May 10th in Louisiana.

The win puts Northwestern into the NAIA Championship game against No.3 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) on Monday, May 10 at 6pm at Eddie G. Robinson Stadium in Grambling, La. The Raiders, now 11-1 on the season, will play in their sixth championship game and first since the 1984 season.

In a game full of offense as the teams combined for nearly 1,200 yards, it was the Raider Defense that initiated the heroic game-winning drive as T.J. Jones and Carter Van Gorp tackled Mustangs quarterback Joe Dolincheck for no-gain on a fourth-and-two, giving the Northwestern offense the football at its own nine-yard line and 1:49 left on the clock. Turns out, all the offense needed, led by Kooima, the two-time GPAC Player of the Year, was a chance.

Following an incompletion, Kooima connected on back-to-back passes to Cade Moser to give the Raiders a first down at their 39-yard line. An 11-yard run by Kooima gave his team another new set of downs at the 50-yard line and a huge 25-yard reception by Josh Fakkema put the Raiders within striking distance at the Mustangs 23-yard line…and the epic comeback within their sights.

Kooima spiked the ball on first down and threw an incomplete pass on second down, setting up 3rd-and-10 from the Mustangs 23-yard line…and that is where the senior delivered the game-winning touchdown to a well-covered Storey, who jumped over the Morningside defender for the miraculous catch in the endzone. Northwestern’s Blake Fryar ran the two-point conversion in, giving Northwestern the lead with 16 seconds left.

Everyone knew, however, the game was not over…and with these two offenses, no lead proved to be safe, no matter how little of time was left on the clock. A couple of complete passes by Dolincheck drove the ball to the Northwestern 43-yard line with two second left. After a timeout called by each team, Morningside’s last chance pass from Dolincheck was broken up by the Raiders Shane Solberg, sending the Northwestern players, coaches and thousands of fans in attendance into jubilation.

Northwestern totaled 505 yards on offense, 490 coming through the air from Kooima, who completed 21-of-31 passes for a single-game record of 490 yards and three touchdowns. The dual-threat quarterback also scored on a pair of rushing touchdowns. Cade Moser had a record-breaking day as well with 11 catches for 303 yards and a touchdown, breaking Solberg’s record for receiving yards in a game (269 vs Hastings in 2018). Storey (5 catches, 99 yards, TD), Konner McQuillan (3 catches, 37yds, TD) and Fakkema (2 catches, 51yds) were the other top receivers. Northwestern’s big-play capabilities were showcased all game long, averaging over 20 yards per reception.

Red Raider kicker Eli Stader began the scoring with a 20-yard field goal on his team’s opening drive, a kick that set the record for field goals made in a season (14), previously held by three players (Braxton Williams-2019, James Rodriguez-2010, Brad Cave-2004). After this, scoring was all touchdowns by both teams.

Anthony Sims finished off the Mustangs’ opening drive with the first of his three touchdown runs, a seven-yard scamper to put the hosts in front 7-3. Sims had himself a day, carrying the ball 40 times for 244 yards, averaging over six yards per attempt and enabling Morningside to have a 2-to-1 time of possession advantage.

Both teams scored again later in the first quarter; Kooima to McQuillan for a 29-yard pass, completing a five-play, 75-yard drive; and Sims reaching the endzone on a 24-yard run, putting the score 14-9 (Morningside) at quarter’s end.

Northwestern punter Jaden Snyder pinned the Mustangs back to their own four-yard line but Morningside continued to move the ball, beginning a 17-play, 96-yard drive finished off with another Sims touchdown to give the hosts a 21-9 lead. Northwestern responded with a three-play, 75-yard drive; two passes from Kooima to Moser for a combined 53 yards and a Kooima 22-yard run, making the score 21-16.

Morningside scored on another long touchdown drive (12-plays, 75-yards) with a one-yard run by Dolincheck with 2:53 left in the half. Northwestern made short work on its next drive, marching 75-yards on six plays and finished Kooima’s second touchdown run, making the halftime score 27-23.

Dolincheck’s second touchdown run on the Mustangs first drive of the second half gave his team a 34-23 lead and the Morningside defense forced Northwestern on its next drive, seemingly giving the hosts the advantage it needed. The Raider D, however, forced the only turnover of the game when Trevor Rozeboom sacked Dolincheck and forced a fumble which Brett Moser picked up and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown…Northwestern was once again down by just one score, 34-29.

Both teams had to punt after their next series on offense; Morningside scored for its final time early in the fourth quarter when Dolincheck connected with Austin Johnson for a 12-yard score, the only passing touchdown of the game for the Mustangs.

Now trailing 41-29, Northwestern needed just one play to make it a one score game again as Kooima hit Moser for a 75-yard touchdown that used 12 seconds of clock. With the score 41-36, Morningside began a 13-play, 74 yard drive but was unable to get points as the Raiders stopped the Mustangs on their own one-yard line. Following one first down, the Raiders had to punt and gave the ball back to the Mustangs trailing by five with six minutes on the clock.

Morningside again moved the ball but was stopped on fourth down by Jones and Van Gorp…and no one can forget what happened next.

The Mustangs accounted for 692 yards of offense (327 rush, 365 pass), led by Sims (244 yards) and Dolincheck (33/44, 347 yards, TD, 2 rush TD).

Parker Fryar totaled a career-high 18 tackles, making plays all over the field. Noah Van’t Hof (15 stops), Devin Mouw (14), Jake Lynott (13) and Trevor Rozeboom (10) also set or matched career highs. Brettt Moser, named the Defensive Player of the Game, had six tackles and the fumble return for a score.

What’s next for the No.6 Red Raiders…a Championship game against No.3 Lindsey Wilson, Monday night, May 10 in Grambling, LA.

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